Tasting Bourbon the Kentucky Chew and Kentucky Hug Way - The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Bourbon the Kentucky Chew and Kentucky Hug Way

By Maggie Kimberl / June 16, 2016

If you’re new to bourbon culture, chances are there are quite a few terms you find puzzling. Two such phrases that are often bandied about are “The Kentucky Chew” and “The Kentucky Hug.” The etymology of these terms is rooted in generations-old bourbon culture. Fear not, The Whiskey Wash has answers to your burning bourbon questions.

Kentucky Chew

Jim Beam’s Fred Noe talks about the Kentucky Chew. (image copyright The Whiskey Wash)

The Kentucky Chew

The whole concept of The Kentucky Chew was arguably conceived by the late Booker Noe, Beam Generation 6. When tasting whiskey, there’s a specific pattern to follow. Hold the whiskey up to the light and observe things like color and legs. Then place your nose into the glass with your lips parted and breathe through your mouth to smell the whiskey without burning your nose with alcohol vapors. Next sip the whiskey, swishing it all around your mouth and smacking your lips together after your swallow.

This is the Kentucky Chew, and it allows you to taste all the complex flavors of the whiskey by ensuring it coats your entire mouth. Check out this video of Fred Noe explaining the Kentucky Chew:

The Kentucky Hug

This is another term that was probably coined by Booker Noe. After you’ve tasted a whiskey, you will percieve certain flavors in different areas of the mouth, with different “mouth feel” – how the whiskey coats your mouth. And some bourbons will leave a warm sensation in your esophagus as they go down.

That’s called the Kentucky Hug. Or sometimes, when The Whiskey Wash’s Editor in Chief travels to Kentucky and tries a particularly strong vintage, it’s referred to as The Kentucky Body Slam. 🙂